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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Hare Krishna Festival Tour Gets Irish Feet Dancing
By Madhava Smullen   |  Aug 30, 2015

The Hare Krishna Festival tour that drew many Irish people to Krishna consciousness in the 1990s returned to the Emerald Isle this summer, and once again got Irish feet dancing.

Between 1990 and 1995, the late inspirational preacher and Prabhupada disciple Tribhuvanath Das toured Irish cities with his festivals based on Prabhupada’s model from the early days of ISKCON – a straightforward brand that packed the essence of Krishna consciousness into one event.

The festivals, held at halls in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Sligo, and Belfast included bhajans, a drama, a video presentation, a talk on the basics of Bhagavad-gita philosophy, and a Bharatanatyam dance.

Tribhuvanath Prabhu (back right, smiling) with Srila Prabhupada

They concluded with Tribhuvanath’s trademark stomping, rocking kirtans which brought the entire audience to its feet to dance wildly with the devotees, followed by delicious prasadam. Many joined ISKCON after the experience.

Since then, Giridhari Das has kept Tribhuvanath’s Hare Krishna Festivals program going in the UK. But with this year being the 25th anniversary of the first Irish festival, Irish preacher Manu Das invited Giridhari to hold a month-long festival tour in Ireland too, with one festival every week in a different city.

Giridhari’s crack team drummed up excitement about each festival during the week leading up to it by handing out leaflets and chanting Harinama through the streets for three hours every day, in a style reminiscent of the simple, devoted days of early ISKCON.

Harinama in Cork

The team included a group of young devotees enthusiastic about spreading Krishna consciousness in the same way their parents’ generation had years ago.

Radhe Shyam, 19, Hema Mukhi, 21, Logan Stewart, 22, Sandipani Muni, 22, and Manu’s daughter Sita, 21, all camped out in the Irish countryside and drove from one festival location to another in the same van that Tribhuvanath had used 20 years before.

“Although the camping was austere, they enjoyed themselves immensely,” says Manu. “They said it was the best time they’ve ever had in Krishna consciousness.”

Kirtan onstage in Galway

The festivals themselves were held every Thursday. On July 16th, devotees appeared at Dublin’s Button factory in the hip Temple Bar area, the same venue Tribhuvanath had booked. Following that, the tour hit the Cork School of Music on July 23rd, Galway’s famous Black Box theater on July 30th, and Belfast’s  Students’ Union Hall on August 6th.

At every venue, the Hare Krishna Festival drew between 150 and 300 people, mostly local Irish first-timers interested in spirituality – a major success for a small country such as Ireland with a relatively small ISKCON presence.

The event began with bhajans by the young devotees, and then two dances. The first, by a group of 8 – 15 year old girls from an Indian congregation in Kilkenny, was a colorful Rajasthani folk dance with sticks. The second was a modern contemporary dance routine to George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun by Hema Mukhi, who is currently training to be a dance teacher.

An intrigued audience in Belfast listen to a talk on the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita

Audiences were then introduced to Bhagavad-gita philosophy through a short film by Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films, in which he asks people on the street the question “Who Are You?” and invites them to search deeper for the answer.

The play The Traveler’s Nightmare followed, directed by professional theater actress Silavati Dasi (Sile Nugent). In it, Manu played a man trying to enjoy himself while on a train, getting enamored by a blonde passenger (played by his wife Ishani Dasi), and eventually getting told “You’re ticket’s out of date, you have to get off now,” by the conductor, representing death.

Next, a video of Srila Prabhupada explaining the Hare Krishna movement in a 1975 television interview was shown on a big screen. Despite being over 40 years old, it was a huge hit with today’s audiences.

Trying to fight death in The Traveler’s Nightmare

“It had a powerful effect on a lot of people, because Prabhupada is presenting a very broad description of what spirituality is,” says Manu. “They liked that we weren’t just propounding our way as the only way.”

Speakers such as traveling preacher Janananda Swami, renowned chef Kurma Das, GBC chairman Pragosh Das, and Hare Krishna Festival crew leader Giridhari Das would then tie in the points presented in the video and drama in a talk on the basic philosophy of the Gita, explaining that we are not the body but the soul, and that the ultimate purpose of life is to serve God.

An an energetic kirtan would follow, which like Tribhuvanath’s saw Irish audiences throwing themselves into the dancing and chanting. “It really got people going!” says Manu.

Hare Krishna Festival Tour Gets Irish Feet Dancing

Finally, attendees would tuck into a delicious vegetarian feast while they chatted to devotees about Krishna consciousness.

“People liked it because they got to sit down and observe us, see what we’re all about, and then interact with us through kirtan, prasadam and discussion,” Manu says. 

The simple recipe was also a recipe for success. One couple in Cork are still in touch with devotees and are chanting and reading the Bhagavad-gita. Another couple stayed at the ISKCON temple on Govindadwipa Island in Fermanagh for a month. Others are regularly visiting centers in Northern Ireland and Dublin.

The Hare Krishna Festival tour has also re-energized Irish devotees. “It’s had a galvanizing effect,” says Manu. “Devotees got together and bonded and saw what they could do. And now, we’re going to do this month-long tour every year! We’re looking forward to seeing how we can develop it more next time.”

Serving prasadam in Belfast

Meanwhile the spirit of Tribhuvanath, who inspired so many devotees with his simple, fun, and no-nonsense approach to Krishna consciousness, was deeply felt.

“One of the last things Tribhuvanath said before he passed away was that he would always be there in these festivals,” Manu says. “So for a lot of devotees, I think it was an opportunity for association in separation.”

“You could really feel him there,” adds Manu’s wife Ishani.